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By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Review-tini: Skyfall (Spoiler-Free)

I am not embargoed on this film… but it’s so early in the film’s domestic press rollout that a full review would do a disservice to other press, audiences, and the movie. And if you are looking to avoid spoilers – and you really should for this film – I’d avoid every review I’ve seen from the UK so far.

That said… here is what I do want to put on record.

This is, for me, Sam Mendes best work as a movie director. One could easily argue that American Beauty is a better movie. But for me, that was a very theatrical work with a very heavy influence coming from the late great Conrad Hall. Skyfall offers a stronger hand from Mendes than I have ever seen in his film work before. Mendes’ negative signature for me has been extreme story choices followed by pulled punches. Not here. This movie feels to be of one piece… of one attitude. That is a success for me. And the action, when he chooses action, is skillful… which I didn’t expect, even with great second unit support.

Roger Deakins continues to earn his stratospheric rep. This is the first Bond film shot on digital and while if you are looking to pick at it, you can certainly find things that suggest electronic cinema, you’d be obsessing on a couple of trees while ignoring the gorgeous, organic-looking forest. This may be the most visually pure Bond film ever shot.

Great supporting cast, many of whom are, so far, unexpected and undefined for audiences. Don’t want to spoil anything. But it’s a great parade of actors who never feel like they are lining up for another Harry Potter all-in event.

Also a lot of fun and not to be spoiled are Bond series references that are, in this 50th year of Bond, a pleasure.

This Bond film is, like the last two pictures really, an anti-Bond film. Bond continues to be a hard, brooding guy. And this film goes far deeper into the introspection… but unlike the last two, it gets very specific.

There is no sign of what we would traditionally think of as a Bond Girl. But there are some beautiful women. Costume Designer Jany Temime dresses the cast – Bond is in couture suits – impeccably… better than I remember in a series of film where everyone has always looked great. It feels fresh. And it sure doesn’t hurt to have Naomie Harris making Kim Kardashian look like an amateur on the curves circuit. (Naomie is the only person in the cast other than Craig to have her trainer listed in the credits.)

One of the great things about Brooding Bond this time is that the villain in the piece, Bardem, brings him to life. It’s like watching a great heavyweight fighter getting some real competition for a change and stepping it up. (The same is true of another actor in the film who goes toe-to-toe with Javier.) It is a pleasure – and it’s been a long, long time – to see the great actor used as The Bad Guy in the Bond film used for his strengths and not just to chew up scenery. The Uber Villain isn’t a traditional Bond villain with traditional Bond goals. As the third of three inward-looking Bond films, this one feels like the most effective in terms of that goal. (I’ll still take Casino Royale as the best of the three.) And by the time it is over, I felt satisfied about that journey.

And now, I am ready for the next group of Bond films that are bigger, brasher, funnier, and smartly back to the idea of a gadgety, fun Bond who has his martinis shaken, not stirred, sleeps with all the hot women, and blows some really cool stuff up. Happy to have Daniel Craig in the middle of that mix. And I’m not talking Moonraker silly. For me, the template for big, brassy Bond is Live & Let Die and The Spy Who Loved Me, where we first saw Jaws. Give me the dumb and the smart. Figure out a way to do wild gadgets that feel connected to modern reality. I don’t mind a remote control car, so long as it is used with a clear purpose, not just as a gag.

I’m looking forward to seeing Skyfall again – I’ll do a real review after I do – and to the future of the series.

12 Responses to “Review-tini: Skyfall (Spoiler-Free)”

  1. James says:

    Skyfall (plot and style) looks like a Nolan film big time. Should pay some dues there

  2. cadavra says:

    Must quibble a tad. The Bond of the novels was pretty thuggish. Craig brought that persona back in a way we hadn’t seen since the earliest Connerys. The last thing the series needs is a return to Roger Moore silliness. Humor, yes, but giants with steel teeth, huge-ass laser beams and underground lairs filled with hundreds of guys in orange jumpsuits are not what makes 007 so unique.

  3. etguild2 says:

    LIVE & LET DIE? The Bond movie where one of the villains has a pincer for a hand, and another is a voodoo master who paints half his face white?

  4. Christian says:

    Bond in the novels was a romantic gourmand – Craig hasnt brought that side of out at all. But I am jazzed for this.

  5. Alex says:

    “Skyfall (plot and style) looks like a Nolan film big time. Should pay some dues there”

    It looks nothing like a Nolan film. Based on other reviews, Skyfall actually has humor and even a little sex. Nolan’s films don’t have that. It also looks to have comprehensible action sequences, something Nolan’s films also do not have.

  6. I would dispute the notion that Nolan films aren’t funny. I’d argue that’s what the studio executives trying to mimic the whole ‘dark/gritty’ meme with stuff like SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN or ARROW are missing. The Nolan Batman films may take place in a world of somewhat heightened plausibility and perhaps heightened intensity and , but they are not dour and glum affairs. They are bursting with life and color and yes humor. Christian Bale is fun in all three films, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman score big laughs throughout the series (especially Batman Begins), and the various villains (Cillian Murphy, Health Ledger, Anne Hathaway, Thomas Hardy, etc.) are more than willing to crack a smile and/or a joke if required. The only completely somber character, the one I’d offer grounds the films overall, is Gary Oldman’s Gordon. Offhand (and not having seen it yet) I’d presume that saying ‘Skyfall is a Nolan 007 film’ feels like lazy shorthand criticism, but saying Nolan’s films, especially his Batman films, lack humor and fun is patently false.

  7. David Poland says:

    Skyfall feels nothing like a Nolan film.

  8. bulldog68 says:

    Ditto what Scott said re Nolan films not being funny. After all, arguably his greatest villain created to date was name ‘The Joker’ and he had a wicked sense of humor.

  9. AdamL says:

    If it’s like the last two then I’m suddenly not very interested. How disappointing. QoS ranks ahead of AVTAK and Die Another Day but that’s about it. I’ve also never understood the love for Casino Royale. It’s like an underwhelming Bourne film.

  10. storymark says:

    “The only completely somber character, the one I’d offer grounds the films overall, is Gary Oldman’s Gordon.”

    And even he gets some (admittedly akward) zingers in Begins.

  11. palmtree says:

    Saying Nolan’s films are unfunny tonally doesn’t mean they don’t have funny moments in them. It just means their overall tone leans toward taking its subject matter seriously. Hell, even the darkest most depressing movies have at least one attempt at humor. Indeed, if Nolan’s Batman films were tonally unfunny and had zero funny moments, they would be absolutely unbearable.

  12. christian says:

    Gordon has a comic “can’t figger out how to drive the Batmobile” scene.

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